Monthly Archives: July 2017

The Power of Encouragement

I just returned from the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, a powerful four-day conference not only full of awesome keynote speakers and writers workshops, but full of faith, fellowship, worship and encouragement.  I was honored to have been asked to speak, and presented two workshops which went well…the attendees were appreciative and attentive and I really felt that I was helping them learn something about writing and marketing their books.

But the most powerful experience of the conference was when I met one-on-one with a seasoned literary agent who helped me in my lowest moment of frustration and doubt, and then in turn met with a very young, yet-unpublished writer who was in despair – and I was able to “pay it forward”.  When I sat down that morning with the agent, I was feeling emotional, as I had started to wrestle with doubts as to how to move forward with my next manuscript, and frustration that my book sales aren’t where I want them to be yet. The agent gave me some frank advice, and then prayed with me, asking God for favor for me and my books, which brought me to tears – of grief, healing and gratitude. A few hours later at lunch, a 20-year-old writer asked to sit next to me and proceeded to cry, telling me she felt like she had made a mistake in choosing her publisher, had wasted a lot of time and didn’t see a way out. I gave her some honest advice based on my past experience, and then prayed with her that she find favor as well.  And I realized, in encouraging her, that I was passing on the same message God intended for me through the agent – that He has a plan for each of us and He won’t let us fall if we are obedient and faithful, just putting forth our best efforts to try to know and do His Will.

As I sat and listened to my favorite Bible passage read yesterday in Mass, I was filled with even more encouragement, hope and gratitude. St. Paul told the Romans, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28). I was reminded that the past four days had been filled with this message as several speakers told their “rags to riches” stories of how they had sacrificed, lost, despaired – and came out on the other side to find hope, favor and success in their writing careers.  And tears fell again as the church congregation sang “Be Not Afraid.”

If you need encouragement this week, don’t be afraid to ask someone to pray with you…and to pay it forward.

 

 

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It’s Weeding Time!

Yesterday’s Gospel reading about the parable of the sowing of seeds reminded me that my “soil” or soul probably needs a little weeding…just like most farms or vegetable gardens at this time of year (and for sure our backyard patio!) Being a writer or storyteller myself,  I love that Jesus often talked in parables or stories full of description so that we of little understanding could get what He was saying – back then and now.

In Matthew’s Gospel (13:1-23), He tells of a farmer who goes to sow his seed; some gets eaten up by the birds, some falls on rocks, some falls in shallow soil and gets scorched, some falls among thorns (or weeds) and got choked, and some falls on good soil and grows and produces crops. “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means,” Jesus explains.  When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

I have been struggling in trying to grow closer to God despite feeling overwhelmed with my workload and scattered in different directions, in trying to know and do His Will in my writing career despite worrying about a lack of income and difficulties with finances,  in trying to find peace and joy in each day despite feeling worried about the future, and in trying to know Him better by improving my relationships with other people despite worrying they are resisting me because of their own resentments. I see that all of these thoughts and feelings that stand in my way are like weeds…I hear God’s word and start to have a little faith in His care, but then the “worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” choke it out and I become anxious, irritable and discontent – over and over again.

In another parable immediately following in the same Gospel, Jesus actually talks about weeding! Basically, He says the enemy sows these weeds but the landowner (God) decides not to pull the weeds for fear of uprooting the wheat growing alongside them. This tells me that I should be very careful when pulling out my weeds. If you’ve ever weeded a garden in frustration or impatiently, I’m sure you’ve probably pulled up a plant or two by accident. I’ve done this before and was upset that I actually lost some budding vegetables or fruit I didn’t want to lose. So in getting rid of negative thoughts, worries, negative behaviors or even negative people, I am also reminded to be gentle and loving – so as not to cause harm to myself or others. In another words, when I lay aside feelings of being overwhelmed in my work, I can’t do so and be slothful and just not work at all; when I try to forget my financial worries, I can’t do so and completely forget my financial responsibility to my household; when I try to stay in the day, that doesn’t mean I can’t make plans for the future; and when I try to let go of resentments I feel about others hurting me out of their own resentments, I need to be patient and not cut them off altogether but perhaps give them time and space.

Lord, I pray that you help me be more fruitful by helping me to gently get rid of any thorns or weeds choking my productivity and my spiritual growth. 

 

 

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You are NOT invited…

Sometimes we get left out. We are not included or invited to a family or friend’s gathering, party, celebration…and it hurts. And sometimes one of our kids isn’t invited…which, as a parent, often hurts us just as badly as it does the child if not more so. Recently this happened to me when my daughter wasn’t invited to a big event that I thought she should have been invited to.  My daughter was a little hurt and I was even more hurt for her. I know what it feels like to be left out, whether it’s unintentional or deliberate on the part of the person doing the inviting. I sat through Mass yesterday stewing about all of this as soon as the priest started his sermon about receiving an “invitation.” (Of course he was talking about God, and how He invites the lowliest, the least loved, the most in need of help among us, not the popular ones or our best friends or closest family members as is the case among us humans.)

Instead of hearing much of the sermon, my resentment kicked in and I was thinking of all of the things I would say in a text or email response when I got home. Luckily during the church service I also heard the words, “lead us not into temptation” loud and clear during the Lord’s prayer! And I realized my building resentment was probably just Satan trying to pull me off of my spiritual beam. I also reflected on the words of a good friend of mine who I talk to often whenever I am feeling spiritually off-center or resentful or down. She says, “their rejection could be God’s protection.” Think about it…whenever we are not included, not invited, uninvited, rejected…that could be God’s gentle hand trying to keep us from more harm.

Fortunately, there is Someone who always invites us…and that is God. I believe God extends a daily invitation to each and every one of us to be part of His Kingdom…whether it’s inviting us to the Lord’s banquet here on earth at Holy Communion, or inviting us to do His will by serving others, or inviting us to feel joy through all of His gifts. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t always RSVP…we either ignore the invitation or decide not to accept it. In the Gospel of Matthew, Chap 22, Jesus tells a parable about a king inviting his friends and family to his son’s wedding…but his first and second rounds of invitations go unanswered. So he invites people off of the streets to attend. But then the king notices one of the attendees is not “dressed” in wedding garments (or in other words, is disrespectful and not really wanting to be there.) Jesus concludes by saying “…many are called but few are chosen,” meaning that most of us are called, or invited by God to be part of His kingdom…but only those who RSVP and suit up and show up to be fully present will be chosen to be part of the eternal party known as heaven. And in the end, isn’t that really the only party that matters?

 

 

 

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